Right on track!
Over the years I’ve noticed two factors that draw prospective music students to the guitar. The first, and incidentally what drew me to the instrument, is its versatility. Guitar appears in nearly all styles of music and therefore offers something to nearly everyone. Second, the guitar seems remarkably accessible. There are literally millions of online videos featuring people of all ages just strumming away. In many cases these musicians are even singing while playing their guitars. Seeing this, I think it’s easy for beginner guitarists to go in with the expectation that it will be easy. Challenges or difficulty in their early guitar development is rather unexpected in the student’s mind. This can leave them feeling disappointed in their initial progress, when in reality they are right on track! It’s critical to remember that playing guitar is an acquired skill and it’s alright if everything doesn’t click overnight.
Why doesn’t it sound right?
A beginner piano student can sit down at the piano and play something that sounds piano-ey. This is not the case with guitar. Instead, notes are buzzing and sometimes they aren’t coming out at all. This leaves many students feeling discouraged, when actually they are doing just fine. The fretting fingers simply need time, even a few weeks, to build up calluses. (As a side note, do not try and speed up this process by practicing through pain in the stages, as it will have the opposite effect.)
While things may not be sounding beautiful, significant progress is taking place. The fretting hand is growing accustom to various chord fingerings, all foreign. It’s also getting comfortable maneuvering from chord to chord. The other hand is scratching the surface of strumming, which is a strange movement in its own right.
It’s more than hand-eye coordination
As the hands develop, so does the brain. Before the brain can tell each what hand to do, control and coordinate them, it has to decipher a new language of symbols. It may be frustrating to have to pause and think before moving to the next chord, but remembering just how many wheels are turning helps keep everything in perspective.
It’s always easier, and more fun, to put time into something when it’s garnering results. In my experience, teachers are often impressed by the leaps beginner students make week-to-week, even from the first lesson to the second. Hopefully this context will allow the students to see this evolution too, even when it may not be heard!
Courtesy of Mark K. – Mark is an instructor and performer in the Washington D.C metro area with experience in many diverse styles including jazz, classical and pop music. As a graduate from Shenandoah Conservatory, he studied music pedagogy, theory, history and technology. Also ask Mark about his unique experiences performing in the Sahara desert – it will be sure to inspire and give insight into the passion he brings to every lesson.
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